What does it do?
Who works there?
What can you see there?
Why is it so important?
Morgane Denzler, Ceux qui restent, 2012-16. Faux Mouvements Art Center, Metz – France
Whitechapel Gallery – London open 2018
Let’s start from a general perspective and go towards specific.
An art center is a space dedicated to exhibitions; it does not own a collection. They only present temporary ones. It is usually free and its purpose is to show artworks to the public, educate on art and support artists.
How do they support artists if they do not own any collection?
Art centers do this in many ways. FOLLOW ME...
1 - Exhibition
Organizing a solo show or a group show presenting artworks from artists. This will help them get more recognized and validate their ongoing research, especially if the artist get shown in a really respected, well-known institution. They get more audience, more press and their programming is valued. For the art center it is also an opportunity to start a conversation with their audience, raise new problematics or shine a light on a contemporary issue.
Canada Montréal DHC post
2 - Production
Art centers have a budget for production of artworks. When they invite an artist for a show, it can be for a group or a solo one, they can ask the artist to produce an artwork. It can be site-specific, we call it “in situ” meaning designed specifically for the gallery’s’ space. It can also be a joined production with the gallery representing the artist. In this scenario the budget is more important and the work can later be sold to a collector. As you can see there are many ways a production can be arranged. And in any case it is a very good opportunity for the artist. But of course it also means more pressure as well because the work needs to be produced within a timeframe (the exhibition’s deadline) and technical conditions (space, budget, etc.).
Stéphane Thidet – Abbaye de Maubuisson, near Paris
3 - Residencies
Some art centers have a residency program. They welcome artists on site for a certain amount of time, so they can either work on their choosen research or work on a project for the center. After the duration of the project the artists show audiences what they produced. It come in various ways, sometimes it involves the local neighborhood or students, other times it is the presentation of the works within an exhibition, a performance, film, or even a round table, publication, etc.
For example I have worked with an artist during his residency for an art center in France. The residency was a joined project with two entities, an art center and a hospital. The project was funded by both the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Health, its goal was to bring art inside a hospital involving both patients, medical staff and anyone involved in the hospital life. The artist is a photographer and answered the open call with an idea on what kind of project he would imagine. My job was to assist him on the shoots and organize an educational program regarding his project. At the end he presented an exhibition of the pictures he took inside the hospital. They were printed on paper and put up on the outside walls inside the area of the hospital, so everyone could see them. It was such an interesting project to work on. These kind of residencies making two very different world work together and get to know each other are extremely interesting. They help both sides discovering and understanding each other, their work, their passion, their pressure and living conditions.
Yuko Mohri, “Voluta”, Camden Art Center, 2018
5 - Now for the specifics
A lot of art centers are non-profit. They are independent organizations which get public funding and also private donations. They rely on their team and the administrative board to take decisions.
Some others are public ones, managed by the region or the city and get solely public funding.
Finally some others are private art centers, they are funded by a brand and will create it to organize exhibitions and support creative minds in a different way. For instance in Paris there is the Galerie des Galeries which is an art center located inside the Galeries Lafayette. The Louis Vuiton Foundation is a huge institution in Paris today, but before it was an art center located at the top of their store on the Champs –Elysées (it had an amazing view of Paris!).
Storefront Art for Architecture Art center, New York – USA
Stéphane Thidet – Abbaye de Maubuisson, near Paris
4 - Education
Art centers can also do programs with schools and students by doing artists residencies with them. The artist works on a project with the teacher and the art center’s team act as a link between them. They help organize the workshops, the production with the children, the whole project. Their role is really important because they understand both sides and act as a mediator between them. They know about education and the teacher’s perspective but also the creative side of the artist. Again this project can take on many forms, exhibitions, performance, video ,etc.
Paul Maheke, Galerie Art & Essai, Rennes – France
Alberto Baraya, The Drawing Room, London – UK
6 - Subject
It can be on anything. Some art centers will be dedicated to a medium like the Drawing Center in NYC and the Drawing Room in London. It can also be about a certain kind of artists or a different concept. For instance Le Pays où le ciel est toujours bleu has an exhibition space but also an itinerary one. A pod on wheels going places in France. Instead of the visitor going to the exhibiton, the art goes to them!
In Rennes the Art et Essai Galerie is located inside a University and is managed by students!
Division Art Center ? – Montréal, Canada
7 - How can I support an art center?
You can support art centers in many ways, visiting them is mostly free and helps them show their donators and backers that the community is involved and interested by what is happening. Their role is important and valued. If you can do more, you can make a donation according to your situation of course.
There is also another way and that is by sponsoring an exhibition. If you run a business and would like to start a project within your job, it can be done in two different ways. First, of course, supporting financially. Funding the production of an artwork or the whole event. Secondly by your skills. If you own or work for a company with a specific set of skills you can give time to the art center. It will be considered a sponsorship. For instance if you work for a building company and an artist needs help with producing a piece in concrete you can advise both the artist with the art center and directly produce the piece on your site.
As you can see there are many ways to help and support an art center.
Of course the most effective way is first and foremost to visit the exhibition! Talk about it with your friends and family, post about it on social media and start a conversation!
Art centers are important to the community. They provide a space to locals where everyone is welcomed, anyone can exchange on contemporary subjects and voice their opinion.
I hope this short presentation of what an art center do gives you a better understanding and motivates you to visit your local one.
We do not always have the time to go on vacation or a weekend to escape our everyday life and our worries. Art can be an exit and an efficient outlet to empty our mind for a short time. Try it and let me know!